February 24, 2024

Pistons trade deadline, Part 2: What I’m hearing about Zach LaVine, Tobias Harris and more

The Athletic has live coverage of the 2024 NBA trade deadline.

The NBA’s trade deadline is days away, and as it pertains to the Pistons — the league’s worst team — the sense that I’m getting is it could be a quiet time.

But this league is unpredictable, and this week, even more so.

If things do end up being a bit more hush in the Motor City, it’s not for a lack of trying or lack of options. More than anything, it appears the Pistons do have possibilities, both big and small, but remain focused on hanging to their young core while keeping both their non-player assets and financial flexibility for the immediate future, per league sources. Things, of course, could change over the next 2 1/2 days.

Despite the 6-43 record, the Pistons remain confident in their young players and future. Adding veteran pieces around those players will be high on their priority list over the next several months. Detroit has played better basketball since trading for Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari in January, beating Oklahoma City decisively and going toe-to-toe with several other top teams in the league. Both veterans complement Detroit’s young frontcourt prospects Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart, as well as guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

All signs point to the Pistons eventually taking a swing on higher-level players. The hoarding of expiring contracts has been a big indicator of that.

However, I’m not sure that move comes before Thursday’s deadline. Here is what I’m hearing in regards to Detroit as the NBA enters trade-deadline week:

Prior to the news Saturday afternoon that the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine would elect to get season-ending foot surgery, my gut feeling after talking to people since my last report is that the Pistons would have only seriously considered a move if the Bulls either added on assets (a pick, or picks, or a player like Patrick Williams) to take on LaVine’s contract or accepted only expiring deals — and I’m still not certain the latter situation would have been enough for Detroit to take on such a big deal for an oft-injured player.

The 28-year-old LaVine, who the Pistons have had many discussions about trading for in recent weeks, has three years left on his deal after this season, and he’ll be paid close to $50 million at the age of 31 when he inevitably picks up his player option in the final year. LaVine is a good player who, on the surface, would help Detroit … but how much? He also would command the basketball on a rebuilding team that features Cunningham and Ivey, a pairing that slowly but surely is starting to find a good balance together.

Assuming the Bulls never came down on their asking price of Bojan Bogdanović and a young player, I didn’t see Detroit landing LaVine —  whether there was upcoming surgery or not. If Chicago would have or is willing to attach assets to LaVine, then I could have seen it going down. Now with the surgery news, I don’t see any world where the Pistons take on LaVine unless the Bulls attach an unhealthy amount of assets, which very likely wouldn’t happen.

Another name I mentioned in reports dating back to December is Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers. Per league sources, the Pistons remain interested in the sharpshooting forward who played in Detroit from 2016-18. While a move before the deadline for Harris wouldn’t surprise me, the feeling I’ve gotten is that the Pistons are more likely to go after Harris in the summer using cap space. Detroit appears to be on the fence about giving up any type of asset for a player it could simply sign this summer. Harris has personal connections to Detroit and relationships with several in the front office and coaching staff. Depending on Philadelphia’s asking price for Harris, it might make more sense for the Pistons to just sit it out until this summer.

Detroit’s Monté Morris (right) could be a player to watch before the NBA trade deadline: (David Richard / USA Today)

On a smaller scale, rival teams continue to be interested in Pistons guard Monté Morris, per league sources. The Timberwolves are one of the teams with the most interest. Minnesota, per league sources, tried to trade for Morris when he was in Washington prior to Detroit. The Pistons, though, also value what Morris brings to the table as a veteran guard who takes care of the ball and can shoot. Morris just returned from injuries that forced him to miss the first 43 games of the season.

Others to watch

Veterans Bogdanović and Alec Burks continue to have strong interest around the league, per league sources, but Detroit is still leaning toward keeping both unless an offer featuring good picks and/or solid players comes to the table.

(Photo of Cade Cunningham and Tobias Harris: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)